Whitehead: Water! Protecting our most precious resource

Posted 4/29/22

Water is on every person’s mind and that is a good thing. Today, we know that Colorado River is over-allocated and the future will have less water.

Yet, scarcity leads to innovation and …

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Whitehead: Water! Protecting our most precious resource


Water is on every person’s mind and that is a good thing. Today, we know that Colorado River is over-allocated and the future will have less water.

Yet, scarcity leads to innovation and Scottsdale has been innovating for decades.

Capitalizing on conservation, recycling, technological advances, regional cooperation, and with a focus on large users — we are turning a shortage into an opportunity for a sustainable water future.

Who uses water?

Thermoelectric power generation (nuclear, coal, natural gas) is the largest source of U.S. water withdrawals according to the US Geological Survey.

Agriculture is second. In 2015, power generation used 133-billion gallons of water daily. Almost 100% came from lakes and rivers reducing water for wildlife, drinking water, recreation, and other uses.

In Arizona, agriculture accounts for 72% of the state’s water usage. Municipal uses — cities and towns — account for 22% and industry accounts for the rest.

Water usage in Scottsdale can be divided into two categories: indoor and outdoor. Water used inside a home or business goes back into the system and is treated and recycled.

Water used outside for irrigation and auto-pool refills cannot be recaptured. Outdoor uses account for 70% of water used in Scottsdale and is the focus of the city’s conservation efforts.

Additional AZ water facts

Power uses water. Just as important, water uses power. Pumping water uphill takes energy. To illustrate this, consider that the Central Arizona Project (CAP) canals are Arizona’s top electricity user. In Scottsdale, the water department’s electric bill costs ratepayers approximately $16 million per year.

Bottom Line: Conserving energy, conserves water and vice versa. Both save money.

Also unique to Arizona, the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating station uses treated municipal water instead of fresh water. This is an environmental win but still takes large quantities of water that are then not available for other uses.

Palo Verde uses roughly 40% of Scottsdale’s waste water and the majority of water from other municipalities.

Water usage in cities and towns, per capita, has dropped significantly over the last decades. However, the cost of water will need to increase to enable new infrastructure to ensure water sustainability.

The role of renewable energy

Renewable energy can play a big role in conserving water. Generating electricity from wind and rooftop solar can reduce water usage by over 80%. The Central Arizona Project (CAP), the largest energy user, has been adding on-site solar generation.

Data centers, cropping up in the Phoenix area, are also big water users.

Nationwide, data centers used 165-billion gallons of water in 2014. According to the Department of Energy, data centers use more water to generate electricity than for cooling. Powering data centers with Arizona’s sunshine offers a significant water savings opportunity.

In Scottsdale, we have tapped another renewable energy source: sewer gas. In partnership with other Valley cities, this former waste product is now being converted into renewable energy. The process also reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The biogas plant, operated by Ameresco, is the largest wastewater treatment biogas-to-renewable natural gas facility in the nation.

What else is Scottsdale doing?

• Recycling Water: Scottsdale Water operates one of the most sophisticated recycled water facilities in the world and can treat up to 20 million gallons a day to a water quality that exceeds that of bottled water. Today, recycled water is primarily used in irrigation and to recharge aquifers. Fun Fact: Local breweries use our recycled water.

• “New” Drinking Water: The new Thomas Groundwater Treatment facility can process up to 5.4 billion gallons per year of contaminated well water to drinking water quality. Water customers will also notice the water is less hard.

• Leak Detection: From home meter rebates to new city meters, leak detection alerts will save rate payers water and money. It is estimated that 6 billion gallons are lost to leaks annually in the United States.

• Recharging Aquifers: In the past 25 years, Scottsdale recharged 75 billion gallons of treated water into Arizona aquifers.

• Better Technology: Scottsdale Parks use state-of-the-art irrigation technology that detect leaks and rain, text staff, and shut-off the water.

• Water Audits & Rebates: Scottsdale Water works with HOAs, apartment managers, and homeowners to help reduce water usage and save money.

• Green Building Codes: Scottsdale continues to strengthen green building codes in order to increase water and energy conservation in new construction.

• Septic-to-Sewer: The city is seeking cost effective ways to connect 5,000 homes on septic to the city sewer system. Based on a rough estimate from staff, the conversion could yield an additional 700,000 gallons/day.

• Leak Reporting & Workshops: See a leak? Search “Water Leak” from the City website: ScottsdaleAZ.gov. Also search “water conservation workshops” to get involved.

Ensuring a healthy, water-filled future for Scottsdale is at the heart of my re-election campaign. With our community mindset, state-of-the-art treatment facilities, and the right leaders — we will have enough water for today and tomorrow.

Editor’s Note: Solange Whitehead is a Scottsdale City Councilwoman seeking reelection to a second term in the 2022 elections.


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  • xway.mike.norton

    I join in Council Member Whitehead's desire to protect water. Which is why I'm perplexed by why Council Member Whitehead fights the removal of Sissoo trees. There is literally nothing that grows in Scottsdale that wastes more water than a Sissoo tree. Because it consumes massive amounts of water and is the greatest cause of underground leakage in the County, our County put it on its "Do Not Plant" list. The CAP management spends millions each year to remove them from the banks of the canals that they bust up and cause to leak. The City of Buckeye Public Works Director calls the Sissoo the worst thing that ever happened to Buckeye and refuses to repair streets where homeowners won't remove them.

    One would think that Council Member Whitehead would fight to stop them from ever being planted again and seek to replace them with a better choice.

    But one would be wrong. Inexplicably - and in direct contrast to her stated position about conserving water - she has done the opposite. To the point of threatening homeowners who remove those trees with Code Enforcement Violations (of a Code section that does **NOT** exist).

    Monday, May 2 Report this